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Commentary: Sun's servers are fashionably late

The company has strengthened its competitiveness with new server models, and the main question will be how quickly it can deliver them to enterprises needing extra capacity.

    By Paul McGuckin, Gartner Analyst

    Sun Microsystems has strengthened its competitiveness with new server models, and the main question will be how quickly it can deliver them to enterprises needing extra capacity.

    The four new models--at three capacity levels--use UltraSparc III processors. They bring many of the capabilities of Sun's top-of-the-line E10000 server into the middle of its product line. Most notably, the new servers will offer partitioning, whereby a single machine can run several different operating systems--in effect, acting as multiple servers.

    Although these new servers are late in coming, their architectural specifications are impressive. For instance, they offer low latencies for accessing near and far memory, and a configuration option to avoid a single point of failure. Benchmarks announced by Sun offer some evidence of the performance of the new servers, but fall short of a compelling argument for performance superiority. Although Sun edged out IBM on the Oracle Applications Standard Benchmark, it did so using a configuration that substantially exceeded the number of processors used by IBM at the application-server level.

    See news story:
    New midrange servers key to Sun's fate
    Nevertheless, the servers will likely bolster Sun's already strong competitive position. No other vendor offers partitioning in the middle of the product range. Hewlett-Packard's Superdome offers it only at the high end. IBM doesn't offer it at all and likely won't till at least the end of the year. On top of this, Sun has won business up to now even with "long in the tooth" technology--in large part because of the near-religious devotion of many developers and independent software vendors.

    For many enterprises, the chief problem will be the long lead-time for Sun to deliver on orders. The delays stem from Sun's having to wait longer than expected to get UltraSparc III chips from the manufacturer, Texas Instruments.

    (For related commentary on Sun's E5500 and E6500 servers, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

    Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.